SIDNEY — A special meeting to review part-petitions submitted for an initiative dealing with a drug price relief act was held Thursday morning by the Shelby County Board of Elections.
The part-petitions, said Chris Gibbs, chairman, are for a statewide initiative for drug price relief for citizens in Ohio. All part-petitions, he said, were delivered to Secretary of State Jon Husted. Once his office received the petitions, they were sent to each county for the local board of election’s review.
After the Shelby County board reviewed the part-petitions, the certifications were returned to Husted’s office on Dec. 28, 2015. The Secretary of State’s Office reviewed each part-petition and if any irregularities were found, they were returned to the local board of elections for review again. On Jan. 4, Husted ordered each county to re-review the part-petitions which had irregularities. A report of the findings has to be made to Husted’s office by Jan. 31. Eighteen counties had the part-petitions returned to the local board of elections for a re-review.
The returned petitions dealt with names being crossed off and the number of petition signers not agreeing with actual signatures.
“They were returned with the directive (to review the petitions),” said Gibbs. “At our last meeting, we determined that in order to meet the directive, we needed to subpoena the circulators to appear for the hearing today (Thursday).”
Petitions from 10 circulators were returned to the local board of elections. Subpoenas were sent to two individuals who live in Ohio and eight who live out of state.
Shelby County Prosecutor Tim Sell reported he subpoenaed two people who live in Ohio — one in Springfield and the other in Toledo — and sent certified letters to eight circulators who reside out of state. None of the people were in attendance for the meeting.
Sell said two of the individuals contacted the prosecutor’s office concerning the petitions. Sell stressed that he couldn’t confirm that the people were who they said they were.
“Steve Hawkey said he couldn’t attend the meeting,” said Sell. “He told me any striking of names from the petitions were done by him. Cody Elred said any names struck on the petition were not done by him.”
Dawn Billing, director of the local board of elections, said the returned petitions were divided into three groups for review. The first group, she said, showed the circulator’s statement was consistent and were done properly. The second group had a high number of signatures on the petition which didn’t agree with the number stated by the circulator.
In one petition, she said, the circulator said he/she witnessed 11 signatures but there were only two on the petition. Another one had 28 witnessed signatures but only had one signature and the signatures were all crossed out in the same manner.
Since none of the people subpoenaed nor the ones who received the certified letters attended the meeting, the board approved a resolution to return the petitions to the Secretary of State’s office with an explanation of what procedures were taken to comply with the directive ordered by Husted’s office. All petitions were returned as they had originally been submitted.
Nelson Reid, an attorney with Bricker and Eckler, Columbus, was present to “make sure the law was followed on the part-petitions.” He told the board that it wouldn’t be inappropriate to take a different action than what the local board had proposed. He said if a number of the part-petitions are false, then there’s a problem with Ohio law.
The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act would require the price of prescription drugs in Ohio be the same prices as the prescription drugs provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The petitions were circulated by Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices. Husted can either have the issue placed on the ballot or send it directly to the Ohio General Assembly for a vote if the petitions are certified.
“In this case,” said Gibbs, “the secretary is required to forward the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act to the General Assembly for consideration and possible action (if the secretary validates the signatures on all 88 county part-petitions). If the General Assembly chooses not to pass the proposed ‘Act,’ as petitioned by the people … the ‘Act’ could end up on the November 2016 ballot if additional signatures are gathered. My view is this will ultimately end up being decided by a judge or judges. So be it. Today, the Shelby County BOE did their part as directed by the secretary as he moves to certify or not the statewide petitions.”
In a statement released by McTigue, McGinnis & Colombo, which represents Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices, they state, “On Jan. 4, 2016, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted took the unprecedented step of directing Ohio’s county boards of elections to re-examine a citizen initiative petition proposing a law to the Ohio General Assembly after receiving a letter on behalf of the opponents of the proposed law. According to information received to date by Ohioan for Fair Drug Prices, 18 county boards have re-examined the petitions and re-certified the signatures in most cases with no change and overall a re-validation rate of over 99 percent and not a single previously qualified county has fallen below its qualification threshold. Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices calls upon Secretary Husted to end the delay and immediately forward the proposed law to the Ohio General Assembly so that it may begin to consider it.”
A Shelby County Sheriff’s deputy was present at the hearing. Gibbs said at regular meetings deputies are not present, but because this was a hearing, “I asked the sheriff to make a deputy available to ensure the hearing was conducted in an orderly fashion.”
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